Embassy security resisted a barrage of stones hurled by protesters, firing tear gas and stun grenades. The State Department later said that the embassy itself remained secure, and would not be evacuated.
As Apache helicopters flew overhead, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the summoning of reinforcements to the embassy compound, #Benghazi trended on Twitter.
Trump’s opponents jumped on the hashtag to slam the president for golfing in his Mar-a-Lago resort while the embassy was pounded by protesters. After all, they argued, Trump had spent years excoriating former State Secretary Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama for their supposed absence while jihadists stormed US diplomatic and intelligence buildings in the Libyan city in 2012, killing four Americans.
However, every story is open to partisan interpretation.Trump’s supporters argued that by sending in US Marines to secure the Baghdad embassy, and demanding Iraq step up its security of the building, the president has already done more than Obama and Clinton did in 2012 to avoid disaster.
After the deaths in Benghazi in 2012, numerous Congressional investigations were convened, one of which found that no reinforcements were sent to aid the besieged Americans during the eight-hour jihadist attack. Furthermore, an additional House Intelligence Committee report found that Clinton’s State Department ignored warnings about the perilous security situation of American diplomats in Benghazi for months leading up to the attack.
In the aftermath of the attack, Clinton claimed that the attack was provoked by an anti-Muslim video that whipped an already angry crowd of protesters into a frenzy. However, Clinton revealed in private conversations with confidants and world leaders that she knew a jihadist group was behind the assault. A lawsuit then alleged that Clinton’s use of unsecure email server let militants learn the location of the US ambassador in Benghazi and plan the attack accordingly.
As Twitter bickered over Benghazi, a US Marine Air-Ground Task Force set off for Baghdad. With security bolstered in the compound, any discussion of Benghazi will likely remain a hypothetical and partisan affair. Still, with Trump and his administration blaming Iran for instigating the protests, the consequences of the airstrikes and embassy storming may yet be felt throughout the region.
Chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” a crowd of protesters surrounded the US diplomatic mission on Tuesday, angered by the death of two dozen Iraqis in US airstrikes against the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia over the weekend.
At one point, the mob set a checkpoint at the entrance on fire and attempted to storm the embassy. Dozens of people made it inside the heavily-guarded compound and delivered some damage to the property before eventually retreating as a force of US Marines backed by attack helicopters arrived as reinforcements.
Trump declares US embassy in Iraq safe, says Iran will pay ‘big price’ for attack.